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Island energy challenges and their path to sustainability

Island facility NESOI clean energy

Energy costs on islands are, on average, 30% more than on the mainland. These disparities pose a significant strain on the economy of the islanders. Additionally, findings from the European Environment Agency indicate that emissions from outdated energy infrastructure contribute to pollution levels that exceed EU standards by up to 40%. These show the urgent need to address the islands’ reliance on external energy sources, which not only affects the islands costs, but also accelerates environmental degradation.

In this context, within the framework of the Island Facility NESOI initiative, a project funded by Horizon 2020, the predecessor programme of Horizon Europe, there is a deep recognition of the intricate ecosystem of European islands. From their diverse geographical landscapes to their integrated communities, these islands present both challenges and opportunities for energy transition efforts. From its beginning, in October 2018, NESOI has supported 54 projects in 12 countries across Europe, triggering up to 100 million euros investments, with the majority being focused on the production of energy from renewables, energy storage systems, and energy efficiency interventions. Some results include 160 kt of CO2 avoided per year, 440 GWh of primary energy saved per year, and 6.2 million euros allocated in financial and technical support.

NESOI Platform

The NESOI Facility stands at the forefront of facilitating the clean energy transition on EU islands. It provides comprehensive support, including training, technical assistance, cooperation opportunities, and robust funding to translate Island Sustainable Energy Action Plans into tangible projects. From Renewable Energy Sources (RES) plants to infrastructure retrofitting and job creation, NESOI’s focus encompasses various aspects crucial for sustainable development.

At the heart of the NESOI initiative lies the NESOI Platform, designed to be the primary tool for local operators. In addition to providing tools, advice, and best practices to support islands in their energy transformation journey, it fosters cooperation, creativity, and the visibility of investment possibilities.

In this attempt, Zabala Innovation plays a pivotal role as a partner within this consortium. With Janire Garcia and Anna Lorenzini of the Brussels office spearheading the Communication and Dissemination Work Package, the consultancy has been active in ensuring effective outreach and engagement throughout the lifespan of the NESOI project. This leadership facilitated dialogue, shared knowledge and amplified the impact of NESOI’s initiatives.

Enduring results

Also essential was the role of Zabala Innovation Barcelona office, with Miriam Miranda and Jaume Cot leading the work package number 5 related to the Management of the Direct Financial Support, whose primary aim is to manage a lean financial support scheme to allocate funds to selected islands complementing the assistance from NESOI experts. In fact, the European Islands Facility is not only a project funded by the programs provided by the European Commission, but it is also special given its nature as a cascade funding. The great value given in following the financial support of NESOI to its beneficiaries has been a fundamental element in the success of the project.

Moreover, Zabala Innovation’s beyond-the-project strategy, overseen by Garcia and her team, holds significant importance for the legacy and visibility of the project post-implementation. This strategy ensures that the outcomes of NESOI continue to echo beyond its conclusion, also supporting the Memorandums of Understanding (MoU), developed by the partners from R2M, and sustaining the project’s impact into the future.

The grand finale event of NESOI, celebrated at the end of February, showcased its legacy, including presentations of the Replication Guide and the NESOI one-stop-shop platform. A Q&A session provided a platform for stakeholders to engage in discussions on sustainable energy solutions. NESOI’s commitment to involving local stakeholders fosters a collaborative environment for knowledge exchange and best practice sharing. “You call it a grand finale, but I say grand beginning,” said MEP Tonino Picula, referring to the impact the project will continue to have.